Tuesday 23 Jul 2024
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This article first appeared in Digital Edge, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on May 24, 2021 - May 30, 2021

As Malaysia and the world experience the extended impact from the Covid-19 pandemic, the role of digital is ever more important for the survival of businesses. It is therefore not entirely surprising that digital job vacancies in Malaysia almost tripled from June 2020 to April 2021. 

This finding was made based on Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation’s (MDEC) tracking of digital vacancies on five popular recruitment platforms in Malaysia since June 2020. 

MDEC found that the number of digital job vacancies increased from around 19,000 in June last year to more than 56,000 as at April 2021, with the largest share of vacancies posted on LinkedIn. The most popular jobs were in software development, data science, IT services and e-commerce. Some 76% of the vacancies were for experienced hires while only about 20% were open to fresh graduates, with the rest for internships. 

Based on data extracted from the LinkedIn Talent Insights (LTI) platform, skills that are high in demand in Malaysia as well as Southeast Asia include analytical skills, software development, various programming languages and cloud computing. 

As more non-tech industries embrace digitalisation, companies in market research, cosmetics, music and tobacco have been actively hiring digital talent over the past year. At the same time, the information communications technology and financial services sectors are struggling to meet the strong demand for digital talent in their respective sectors. 

MDEC’s Digital Skills and Jobs Division made these findings based on its analysis of data derived from the LTI platform in April 2021. MDEC’s research involved more than 960 digital roles across all industries in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

Where are these digital talents?

As at April 2021, there were more than 240,000 digital talents in Malaysia that had LinkedIn profiles; more than half of them were located in Selangor or Kuala Lumpur. Outside the usual hotspots, a surplus of digital talent was also found in Johor, Penang and Melaka, most likely due to the presence of universities like Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Multimedia University in those states. Employers who are in dire need of digital talent may want to run their recruitment drives in those states.

The most popular job titles among digital talent in Malaysia include digital marketing executive/specialist/manager, data scientist, full stack or software engineer, head of digital and, interestingly, YouTuber. Data from LTI also suggests that over the past year, there has been a 20% to 30% growth in the number of talents who are either self-employed, freelancers or YouTubers. This trend is in line with the government’s growing focus on the gig economy and its workers. This includes MDEC’s GLOW Penjana programme, which trained more than 10,000 unemployed Malaysians on how to secure freelance jobs via online platforms. 

What skill sets do these talents have?

In Malaysia, fast-growing digital skills include computer science, IT, Python and Adobe Premiere Pro, which consistently showed a growth of more than 30% in the past year. Python is one of the foundational skills for data science careers, which may explain the spike in this skill. 

Fast-growing skills in Malaysia are somewhat different from those in Southeast Asia. For example, there has been much steeper growth in data analytics, back-end web development and React.js skills in the region compared with the types of popular skills in Malaysia. 

Since the skills that are in demand in Malaysia include cloud computing and a variety of programming languages, digital talents who wish to enhance their marketability would do well to pick up skills that are fast growing in our neighbouring countries. 

What do these trends mean for Malaysian talent?

While the number of digital job vacancies is high, the majority of the vacancies are for experienced talent. This poses a challenge to fresh graduates. In the short term, fresh graduates could close their experience gap by taking up digital jobs on a freelance basis via platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer.com or Fiverr. 

At the same time, junior-level talent should also start to pick up some of the in-demand digital skills like analytical skills, software development, various programming languages and cloud computing.

To help talents identify the right training courses, MDEC has established the Digital Skills Training Directory, which lists courses that have been reviewed and endorsed by expert tech practitioners. Job seekers would do well to refer to this directory, while those who are employed can also enhance their careers by taking up courses to acquire some of the in-demand skills mentioned in this article.

As for secondary school leavers or pre-university students who are wondering what courses to pursue in university, these trends suggest promising career opportunities in digital technology-related disciplines. In this regard, MDEC works with 11 universities and five polytechnics as part of our Premier Digital Tech Institutions initiative. Thanks to the strong collaboration between these institutions and industry players, more than 90% of their digital tech graduates get employed within six months of graduation. 

Dr Sumitra Nair is the vice-president and head of digital skills and jobs at the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC)

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